How Not to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation
Your recommenders are doing you a favor, so the least you can do is make their job easier by following proper letter of recommendation (LOR) etiquette. Breaking these important rules may result in your recommenders deciding not to dish out the most favorable review. Stay on their good side, help them stay organized, and most importantly, make sure you DO NOT commit any of these LOR mistakes:
1. Do not give them short notice.
Your recommenders have full-time jobs, lives, and potentially other recommendations to write. If you ask for their recommendation too close to the deadline, you may end up without one.
2. Do not give them an incomplete package of materials.
There are a number of documents that you must submit to your recommender if you want the greatest chance of a) receiving a good recommendation, and b) receiving a good recommendation submitted on time. These include:
• A copy of your resume/CV
• Information about the school/program you’re applying to
• A letter detailing your interests and goals related to the degree you’re pursuing, as well as some reminders about experiences you’ve shared with the recommender that highlight positive characteristics of yours that you would like to see written in the recommendation
• A clear link with instructions on what they need to do/include in their recommendation letter
• A clear deadline
• An addressed and stamped envelope to the school (if that’s what’s required, though most schools will want an online submission)
• If possible, download a letter template and pre-fill all the information you can (recipient, address, etc) to further save time for your recommender
3. Do not give them attitude.
Writing these letters takes time – an irreplaceable, valuable commodity. Be polite and gracious when asking for a recommendation.
Provide all of the above materials in an organized, labeled fashion so that your recommenders can easily review what you’ve given them and then get started writing, without needing to sort through a jumble of messy papers or unclear links or instructions. The better you present yourself and your materials, the easier you’ll make their job, the more impressed with you they’ll be, and – if all goes well – the better your recommendation will turn out.
It’s also a good idea – not to mention simple good manners – to send your recommender a thank you note.
Contact us for advice tailored specifically to your letters of recommendation. We look forward to working with your recommenders and helping you get accepted!
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